The Bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act
According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, college campuses reported over 8,000 forcible sex offenses (rape and fondling) in 2015 – but a recent Department of Justice study shows that the actual number of offenses is estimated to be roughly four times that number. Colleges must create an environment where more students feel comfortable coming forward to report sexual assault so more perpetrators can be brought to justice.
- 80 percent of rape and sexual assault victimizations against female students aged 18-24 go unreported to
- Law enforcement officials at 30 percent of institutions of higher education receive no training on how to respond to reports of sexual violence. 73 percent of institutions of higher education have no protocols on how the institution and law enforcement work together to respond to campus sexual
- Most cases of campus sexual assault are not instances of “stranger rape.” 78 percent of campus sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim
- Confidential reporting options facilitate reporting of campus sexual assault to police and campus
Current federal law has the perverse effect of encouraging colleges to under-report sexual assaults. The bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act would flip the incentives to protect students and professionalize the response to and reporting of sexual assault as follows:
Establishes new campus resources and support services for student survivors: Colleges and universities would be required to designate Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to assist survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Sexual Assault Response Coordinators would coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, provide information about options for reporting, and provide guidance or assistance – at the direction of the survivor – in reporting the crime to campus authorities and/or law enforcement. Schools would no longer be allowed to sanction students who report sexual violence but reveal a non-violent student conduct violation in good faith, like underage drinking.
Requires fairness in the campus disciplinary process: All schools would be required to use one uniform process for campus student disciplinary proceedings and would no longer be allowed to have athletic departments or other subgroups handle complaints. Schools would be required to provide written notification to the accused as well as the victim of any decision to move forward with a campus disciplinary proceeding within 24 hours of that decision. The notice must include details of the complaint, a summary of the disciplinary proceeding, and the rights and due process protections available to both parties.
Ensures minimum training standards for on-campus personnel: This legislation would ensure that everyone from the Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to those responsible for investigating and participating in disciplinary proceedings receives specialized training so that they have a firm understanding of the nature of these crimes and their effect on survivors.
Creates historic new transparency requirements: For the first time, students at every college and university in America would be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence to get an accurate picture of this problem. This new biennial survey would be standardized and confidential, with the results published online so that parents and high school students could make an informed choice when comparing universities. The Department of Education would also be required to publish the names of all schools with pending investigations, final resolutions, and voluntary resolution agreements related to Title IX with respect to sexual violence and requirements of the Clery Act.
Ensures coordination with law enforcement: This legislation would require colleges and universities to enter into memoranda of understanding with each local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction to report to a campus as a first responder to clearly delineate and share information so that when a crime occurs, both campus authorities and local authorities can focus on solving the crime rather than debating jurisdiction.
Establishes stiffer penalties for violations: Schools that do not comply with certain requirements under the bill may face apenalty of up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget. The bill would also increase penalties for Clery Act violations to up to $150,000 per violation, from the current penalty of $35,000 per violation. Financial penalties collected from institutions in violation will be distributed back to campuses through a new competitive grant program, administered by the Secretary of Education, for which colleges and universities can apply for the purpose of researching best practices for preventing and responding to sexual and interpersonal violence on college campuses and sharing such research with peer institutions and the Department of Education.